Saturday, May 14, 2011

Day Three

Friends: The last time a film in Competition had some volleyball play it earned a best director award--Innarutu Gonzalez for "Babel." Volleyball could be the charm in today's "We Have A Pope" that could earn Nanni Moretti, former Palm d'Or winner, more honors. The volleyball is just one of many delightful strands in this surprisingly thoughtful movie from the often goofy Moretti.

French stalwart Michel Piccoli plays a just elected Pope who doesn't care to accept the position. Before he can reveal himself on the balcony as the new Pope to the awaiting world of one billion Catholics he manages to escape his handlers into the city of Rome. Moretti plays a psychiatrist who has been brought in to counsel him when the Pope's handlers realize they have a problem on their hands. He can't talk to him about sex or many other of the usual elements in a shrink's bag of tricks. All the Cardinals are in attendance as he tries to analyze him, one of many greatly comic but poignant scenes.

The Cardinals, as well as Moretti, are all being held hostage until the Pope can be announced. They don't know he is on the loose. To kill time Moretti organizes a volleyball tournament among the Cardinals by their region as if it were a World Cup soccer tournament. The elderly Cardinals in their vestments batting around a volleyball is a sheer delight, as is much of this movie, a good start to the day, though once again the Palais was too packed for any of us in the last minute line without tickets to get in, stealing a half hour from my day being delayed to its follow-up nine a.m. screening.

I sacrificed the day's next Competition film "Polisse" to see the lone market screening of the documentary "Bobby Fischer Against the World" and was very happy to have seen this thorough biopic of the great chess champion. He was one of the most prominent figures on the world stage in the 1970s. His world championship match that went on for nearly two months against Boris Spassky in 1972 in Iceland was often the lead story on the nightly news even with Watergate and the presidential election going on.

Fischer was born in Chicago, moved to Brooklyn with his Russian mother, who had communist sympathies and a 900 page FBI dossier, when he was six, became US national chess champion at 15. He hardly played any chess after winning the world championship at the age of 29 until a rematch with Spassky ten years later in Yugoslavia that violated US trade laws. He was a recluse and a man without a country, ending his days broken and not quite sane in Iceland. The sports writer Dick Schapp said he didn't have a sane bone in his body.

"The Devil's Double" was another market film of a topic that was hard to resist--the story of the double of Saddam Hussein's son Uday, a truly diabolic figure. This Belgian film was directed by Lee Tamahori of New Zealand whose first film "Once Were Warriors" is an overlooked masterpiece. Though he hasn't matched the brilliance of his first film, his skill as a film-maker shines here. The man Uday recruits to be his double is a former school mate who wants nothing to do with Uday, knowing his reputation for reckless belligerence, especially when it came to woman. But he has no choice in the manner. Uday got his way in all matters. He would drive the streets of Baghdad picking up school girls, taking them back to his villa, raping them and sometimes killing them. A bride just after completing her nuptials is another victim. His monstrosities have no limit. Even his father can't control him.

With no bicycling films in the program this year for the first time in a few years I gave the motorcycle racing film "TT3D: Closer to the Edge" a chance to give me a semblance of two-wheeled racing. It was a documentary about a race on the Isle of Man, home of the world's best bicycle racing sprinter, Mark Cavendish. He had certainly biked the 38 miles of the race course on this scenic island off the coast of Great Britain.

Its a dangerous course with two hundred turns and the racers hitting two hundred miles per hour. Over two hundred racers have died on the race course, two in the 2010 race the documentary profiles. Death is accepted. The wife of one of those killed in this race hardly sheds a tear. She said she loves coming to the race so much she'll be back with her two young children, who are already riding mini-motorcycles.

The racers bundled in their armor and helmets gave no hint of the extraordinary effort that bicycle racers give. This was a film that I could have done without. Being in 3D didn't even much enhance the experience.

My thorough perusal of the program unveiled a German film directed by and starring Til Schweiger, the star of one of the best bicycling movies of all time "Phantom Pain" that I discovered at Cannes several years ago. The subject matter of the film didn't interest me in the least, but I felt such a connection to Schweiger, who also starred in Taratino's "Inglorious Basterds" and is considered Germany's Tom Cruise, I feel that I owe it to see him on the big screen whenever the opportunity arises. An added bonus was the film was co-starring his young daughter, who also had a small role in "Phantom Pain." This movie, "Kokowaah", could almost have passed as a Hollywood romantic comedy. Schweiger is a womanizer and screen-writer who has dozens of toothbrushes in his loft for the many women he seduces. He doesn't know he has a daughter until an eight year old shows up on his doorstep needing to be looked after while her mother has to go on a trip. Bonding and complications ensue.

I was able to sneak in the first hour of "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" a documentary on the late night comic just after he is fired by NBC from The Tonight Show. O'Brien evidently was desperate enough for attention to allow somebody to follow him around with a camera as he recovered and then decided to go on tour. O'Brien fans will be happy with the intimacy of the film, but not too many others. O'Brien is still quite angry at NBC but begins to overcome it when his fans flock to his performances.

As usual I ended the day with an Un Certain Regard selection, the Mexican film "Miss Bala" in the second largest of the festival's theaters, the Debussy. Young director Gerardo Naranjo takes on the foremost topic in today's Mexico, the power and terror of the drug loads. He gives it a most humanistic face, approaching the subject through a young beauty pageant contestant who inadvertently falls into the clutches of a high-powered drug gang and is forced to do their bidding. She is a young innocent who has great strength. The film does not sensationalize or go overboard on the violence in this honest and original film. It was a nice final film to dwell on as I biked the four miles back to the campground after midnight.

Later, George

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